10 Secrets to Manage Your IT Effectively


10 Secrets to Manage Your IT Effectively

Effective IT management still often gets treated like a mystery by small to medium sized organizations.  I’m not totally sure what keeps it in that realm.  I think it is because these organizations with 10 to 200 technology users are in a position where hiring on-staff IT and managing it is not practical.  If they try that route, they experience all the pitfalls of not having a full IT team and not having the systems and processes to make it work.  Alternately, if they try to outsource to an IT Managed Service Provider or MSP, they encounter gaps because the provider also is not truly effective at managing IT.

The lack of effective IT management is widespread.  There are some who get it right, but large or small, many organizations struggle with stability, security, support, innovation (vision) or some combination of these technology outcomes.

Much of doing IT right starts with the right big picture.  What should IT look like?  What are the keys to managing IT effectively?

Here are 10 Secrets I’ve Learned for Effective IT Management.

1. Always start by placing people at the center of the IT equation. It is very easy to get caught up in the technology itself rather than the impact on how people work every day. IT must place people at the center, and evaluate technology by how it impacts people.  Does it create enough productivity for Kathy and her department in claims processing?  Does it reduce the risk of a security breach while balancing usability in the audit department?  When IT loses its compassion, empathy and its connection to people, then it becomes dysfunctional.

2. Be an expert at relating IT needs to business goals. Good IT technologists do not always make good IT managers. A good IT manager or CIO will directly correlate their IT actions to business goals and be able to “sell” the needed solution to management.  I have heard IT people state this problem many times as, “they are too cheap to buy that”, when in fact the business leader just needed to understand how critical the solution is to keep their business safe or to meet some other business objective.

3. Have budgetary awareness. This seems simple, but is often overlooked. IT should have a budget.  That budget should include software maintenance, hardware cycle, security, subscriptions, and more.  New initiatives should be planned and balanced.  Balance is simply setting priorities and spending on what is important rather than using the budget up on a pet project before assigning priority.  It is easy for IT people and business leaders to underspend on technology.  We are in an age of digital transformation.  Innovation is moving at a faster pace than ever before.  To cross the threshold and stay relevant in this 4th industrial revolution, we need to move at a faster pace with innovation than ever before.

4. Involve IT in business strategy. IT should have business acumen. They should play an integral part in long-term planning.  Expansion plans, new product lines, improving process, hiring, and more, all relate back to technology.  If IT does not understand business or does not want to be involved in business strategy, it may be time to work with another resource or augment your IT with someone who is more strategic.

5. Automate everything you can. Automation, electronic workflow, digital transformation, and robotic process automation are transformative to almost any business. The payback on these technologies is usually months, not years.  They also produce side benefits of accuracy, better data, and well-being that are immeasurable.

6. Implement training plans for everyone. IT is always changing. Without a training plan, IT people fall behind quickly. Spending thousands on doing IT the old way is the risk of not training, and it happens frequently.  A strong focus on growing people and staying up with the changing technology landscape is required to effectively manage IT.

7. Fearlessly pursue excellence. This one really applies to just about every area of business. However, in IT, it relates to innovation.  If we are not constantly looking to do better and be better, we quickly fall into a rut.  We stop innovating and start just holding the status quo which quickly become less than status quo as things change around us.

8. Use prevent defense. Nobody likes prevent defense in a football game. It is boring.  However, in IT, it is this boring piece that will reduce your risk significantly.  I’m not sure who in the security world first coined this phrase, but I’ll present my version, “90% of security is simply good IT hygiene”.  If you have a good preventative maintenance plan and execute on it, many of the breaches in the news are already prevented.

9. Be humble. This again is a great virtue for anyone. As it relates to IT, hire people smarter than you are.  Admit it when you do not know the answer and reassure others that you will find out.  Things change too fast in IT to know everything.  There is a phrase, I have grown to use frequently, “Would you explain and help me understand”.

10. Understand the value of people-time. It is so easy to lose track of our best and often most expensive resource, people. From an IT perspective, valuing people-time means investing in equipment and solutions, that make people more effective.  If we make Martha in engineering use a 4-year old laptop, we may be frustrating her due to its speed, but we may also be losing significant time.  If she loses 10 minutes per day (low estimate), it costs here an entire week of work in a year.  Worse yet, if she is doing manual entry, reporting, or redundant tasks that could be done by software automation, the loss could be hours every week.  Additionally, the cost could be her leaving for someplace that is more innovative.

There are so many keys to managing IT well.  This list of 10 is just a start, and it is by no means complete.  What have you learned about managing IT?  What would you add to the list?